MTA apnea testing “matter of life and death”

Photo courtesy of the National Transportation Safety Board
An aerial view of the December 2013 Spuyten Duyvil derailment. Two of those killed in the Spuyten Duyvil crash were constituents of Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, who has written a letter to the MTA showing her support for a program that tests train engineers for sleep apnea. It is believed the engineer driving this train suffered from sleep apnea, and fatigue led to the crash.

Assemblywoman Sandy Galef is supporting the MTA/Metro North’s initiative requiring that all train engineers undergo testing for sleep apnea, despite the federal government no longer making them mandatory.

Sleep apnea has been the cause of several train accidents, including a crash in Spuyten Duyvil in 2013 that resulted in four deaths and 60 injuries and a crash last fall in Hoboken that ended with one death and more than 100 injuries. Two of those killed in the Spuyten Duyvil crash were Galef’s constituents.

Galef wrote a letter to Joseph Lhota, the chairman of the MTA, showing her support of sleep apnea testing for train engineers. The tests were previously mandated by the federal government but the Trump administration has withdrawn the proposed regulation for train engineers and truckers. Now rail lines are the ones who decide whether or not to mandate the tests for their engineers.

“I have recently read that the MTA is going to continue a policy to test for sleep apnea for its engineers. I believe this policy is very important and can be a matter of life and death,” Galef said in her letter.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood institute defines sleep apnea as a disorder “in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep.” This can cause those effected to lose many hours of sleep and be excessively tired throughout the day.

In a press release last week, Galef said it is important for train engineers to be tested because they “hold the lives of so many people in their hands.”